Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It's Raining Shoes aka The Great Camp Debacle

Last summer my strategy was to sign up the kids for as many camps as possible. They went to tennis camp and video game maker camp and junior scientist camp and animal husbandry camp and cheese making camp. Okay, I made up those last two, but I guarantee that such camps exist. Probably at Waldorf. The camps scene is also very overwhelming and there's a risk of feeling like your kid is missing out on something if he's not signed up for a gazillion different camps. Remember when camp was just a place to swim and weave a lanyard? Now they promise that your kid will learn how to write a computer program, build a scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, or knit a scarf out of alpaca wool. It's almost as if the camp programs are targeted to assuage parental guilt rather than deliver on their lofty goals. Why feel guilty that you're off-loading your kid for eight hours when he'll be NBA-ready at the end of the a week of basketball camp?

I succumbed to that pressure last year and our summer felt very over-scheduled and rushed, which is not what summer is all about, amiright? This summer, I tried to be more choosy with the camp selections, especially because all three of the kids are camp-aged, now. Even with my mediocre math skills, I realized that it would be less expensive to pay a babysitter $15/hour to watch the kids for 40 hours a week than to pay camp tuition of $250/week for each of the three kids. So, I decided that each kid would get two weeks of camp, we'd go to Maine for two weeks, and I'd try (with assistance from a babysitter) to keep them from physically harming each other for the remaining 5.5 weeks.

The one camp that the big kids loved last year was the Amy Bryant Tennis Camp at Emory. It must be a fabulous camp because despite running around outside for three hours in 90 degree weather, they both raved about the camp. And the Boy doesn't rave. So, as soon as the early bird registration was available, back in February, I emailed some of their friends' parents to see if anyone else was interested in the camp. This was the first year that the Boy and the Girl would be split up by age; the Boy would be with the 5-8 year old campers and the Girl would be with the 9-14 group. Despite the fact that the Boy and the Girl try to tear each other limb from limb on a daily basis, I know that they take some comfort to being together in unfamiliar places. So, I was especially happy to find a tennis camp friend for each of them.

I registered them for camp using the on-line system, which I found a little bit wonky. But, in the end, I believed that I had successfully registered the kids and noted that they'd like to be in a group with their friends.

You know what that is? That's the first shoe dropping.

On Sunday, the day before camp week was due to start, I received an email from the Baby's Pirates and Mermaids Camp detailing camp logistics and listing the activities for the week. At that point, I realized that I hadn't received a similar email from the tennis camp. I emailed some of the other moms with whom I had coordinated the camp schedule and discovered that they had received messages. After checking my spam folders and trash I got that sinking feeling that something had been screwed up during the registration process and the Girl and the Boy were not expected at tennis camp the next day.

I am not skilled at a lot of things, but I am awesome at flagellating myself when I've messed up. I felt especially bad because of two things: 1. the kids really liked this camp, 2. their friends were counting on them being there. So, I frantically emailed the camp director and threw myself on her mercy. After a few hours (it was Sunday morning, after all), she emailed back that she was very sorry and that of course they could accommodate the kids, I would just have to complete a waiver form on the first day. She even got the names of their friends so that she could put them in the same group. All the coordination took some time, but I was enormously relieved.

My plan for Monday was to leave by 8:15 to give myself plenty of time to register the big kids for tennis and get them settled and then drop off the Baby at Pirates and Mermaids by 9:10. Monday came and as I was filling up water bottles, applying sunblock, packing snacks, and dragging a brush through the screaming Baby's hair, I took a moment to check the email on my phone to make sure there wasn't anything pressing needing my attention. (Because in my mind, I'm just that important.) I stopped scrolling when I saw a message from the mom of the Girl's tennis camp friend:

I'm not sure how we left off with tennis camp, but I just found out last week that I managed to double book C [her daughter] in camp this week. We had to move tennis to the week of 6/17, Meredith at Emory was very nice about it. I am not sure if [the Girl] is doing Emory this week or not, but if she is please tell her I'm sorry that C won't be there....
There goes the other shoe.

Oh, crap. As we got in the car, I broke the news to the Girl that she'd be on her own at the camp. She took the news surprisingly well, while I reflected on the time I wasted on Sunday beating myself up over the camp registration screw up. The Girl is the most easy-going of the children, so being a good sport is in her nature. I was just grateful that the Boy's friend would be in his group.

I went to school at Emory, so I was pretty confident that I could find the athletic center since I went there pretty much every day for three years. After a wrong turn and a construction detour we arrived at the Woodruff Physical Education Center or WoodPEC for short. I parked the minivan in a surface lot, congratulating myself for my brilliance at skipping the parking garage labyrinth. I checked my watch and it was just past 8:30, which gave me plenty of time to register the big kids and get the Baby to her Pirates and Mermaids camp by 9:10.

Registration took a bit longer than I had calculated, but the Baby and I were still in pretty good shape when we jogged back to the parking lot. Where we sat. And sat. And sat in line to get out of the lot for 20 minutes. By the time we left the Emory Campus it was 9:20. I rolled every stop sign between Druid Hills and Decatur, but it was still close to 9:40 when we crossed into city limits. Oh well, I consoled myself, it's just one day. The mom of the Boy's friend had suggested a carpool, which would make dropping off a lot easier. Right as I was running through carpool logistics in my head, my phone rang. Coincidentally, it was the mother of the Boy's tennis camp buddy.

And the third shoe. Yeah, I know.
Trust me, I didn't think three shoes could drop either. 
She was so sorry to tell me that she had also screwed up and that her son was at Emory soccer camp for the week, not tennis. She knew we'd mentioned carpooling, but he was going to carpool with three soccer buddies. I'm pretty proud of myself that I didn't just scream obscenities at her. That wouldn't have been fair because honestly, she had screwed up exactly how I screwed up and C's mom had screwed up. And nothing she did was any worse than the prior screw ups, but her call was just the rotten cherry on the top of the clusterfuck sundae. I said, I hope politely, but probably with hostility and belligerence, that I was about to drop off the Baby for camp 40 minutes late, and that I would call her back later.

I screeched into an illegal parking spot in front of the Baby's camp and pulled her out of the car as she asked me if they were going to cook anything at camp. What? Why would you cook at Pirates and Mermaids camp? I just couldn't help myself: "Yes," I said, "You're cooking a mermaid today." Probably not the right answer, but she caught me at a weak and cranky moment. When I finally located her group on the playground, she was unhappy to be joining in late and probably still thinking about cooking a mermaid, and decided to cling to my legs instead of running off to play with her friends. I used up every last ounce of my patience to take her over to the playground equipment and make toddler small talk with one of her friends in hope that she'd decide on her own to stay without counselor intervention. Nothing doing. After about five minutes, one of the counselors came over and physically lifted the Baby off of me so that I could leave. In the only positive turn all morning, when I got back to my car I didn't have a parking ticket.

Things are bad when the upside of your morning is not receiving a citation. The main benefit of the camp debacle was that it reinforced my decision to limit the number of camps this summer. There's no way that the hours I spent being stressed and irritated by the camp logistics were worth the two hours of free time it afforded me. I mean, I'm sure that the tennis instruction and pirating instruction that the kids received was invaluable, but I almost cursed out another mom and told my four year old that she was cooking a beloved mythical creature. That's also not what summer is all about.


  1. Since you spent so much time at Emory...any tricks to getting from our side of Decatur to the pool area and avoiding traffic at 4:59 on Clairmont? What about that parking deck maze at the swimming/athletic complex? Any quick ways to get in and out when there is also a swim-meet going on? And....I am assuming it was totally ok to let my kid leave the athletic complex in a diaper, t-shirt, and shoes, right? At least I did not change him into his swim clothes outside at the pool to save time, but it DID cross my mind.

    1. Yes! Take Scott to Coventry and turn right at the T when Coventry intersects with Clifton. Take Clifton to Oxford Rd. Turn left on Oxford Road and go into that traffic circle and get out by Rocco's Pizza and Zoe's Kitchen and take that left into the campus. Turn left at the first stop sign and just zip up to Peavine. Of course, this gets you to WoodPec, not to the outdoor pool at the Clairemont Campus. I don't have any tips to get there except to cut through the Medlock neighborhood and take Desmond Road to the left until it intersects with Clairemont right before the train bridge.

      I say that until someone verbally objects (i.e. dirty looks don't count) to you changing your kid in public and the kid is too young to care, do whatever is easiest. All the lifeguards and other folks who work at the pool are probably too hungover to care.

    2. Thank you - I ended up getting there fine on Clairmont (left work 15 minutes early just in case), and then cut thru Medlock to get home. Might not have been faster - but at least I was moving instead of sitting at the light.

      Oh, and I changed Teddy in the way back of the car yesterday instead of dealing with the locker room. It was much easier and I think it made the Emory employees that were leaving for the day smile - so it all worked out.

      Traffic also wasn't as bad - I blame Tuesday's traffic on the swim meet.